March 15, 2021

The Theater and Actors of Hypocrisy (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

 By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting." (Matt. 6:16)

When the Lord came into the world, He found a perverted spiritual condition. All the worship of fallen man had been transformed into a public spectacle. It was moving in the periphery. Hypocrisy was everywhere. People were anthropocentric even on their path to God. Fasting, prayer, righteousness were the means of projection. Instead of worshiping God, man worshiped himself. He was trying to reach God through his ego. He did not know that deification comes through the blessedness of humility, through the complete disappearance, or rather through the transformation of the ego. This truly horrific situation is vividly and graphically described in today's Gospel passage. The Lord, healing this morbid spiritual condition that was demonic, moved it from the periphery to the depths. Everything must be done "in secret". We will seek today to study a little both hypocrisy and hypocrites.

The theater of hypocrisy

Hypocrisy is the pretentiousness of virtue and pious life. The non-existence of the inner life, of true piety, is manifested externally, as existing, in the forms of piety. That is why hypocrisy is a manipulative theater and the hypocrites are actors. Occasionally they play different roles "to be seen by men".

Hypocrisy, according to the Fathers, is a pretense of friendship, hatred disguised as friendship, animosity manifested as favor, envy that mimics the character of love. Hypocrisy is fictitious and not real life virtue, the pretense of righteousness, deception that has the form of truth (Maximus the Confessor).

In other words, when a passion puts on the corresponding virtue to circulate among people, it is called hypocrisy. This condition literally destroys the human person. Man from a person becomes a mask. And as we pointed out before, this horrible situation is done in an attempt to project the ego. So in fact it is the worship of the ego that becomes the condemnation of man.

Actors in the time of Christ

The "woe" that Christ addressed to the Pharisees, the foremost exponents of hypocrisy, is well known. The Lord used a very realistic picture to present the schizophrenic condition of the hypocrites. The hypocrites look like tombs which "on the outside look beautiful, but on the inside are full of dead bones and all kinds of corruption." So did the Pharisees. The Lord told them, "outwardly you appear righteous unto men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity" (Matt. 23:28). The Pharisees were actors. They went up to the religious scene of the time, sometimes expressing a good they did, of dubious origin, sometimes trying to appear to people as righteous, while they were the most unrighteous. But to be true we must say that hypocrisy was a feature and disease of the time, since the people were distinguished for this disease (Lk. 12:56).

Actors of every era

Unfortunately, hypocrisy is not a product of the pre-Christian era. It still exists today and is a misfortune that also occurs among people who follow Christ. If we honestly examine ourselves we will find that we are actors at all levels of life and we constantly play theater.

Indeed, we play theater, when in the way of prayer and the life of worship in general we seek to attract the attention of others and at worst we seek to cover the disease of the soul. When with the form of modesty and the curtain of gloom we hide "the inherent audacity" and "the abominations of the soul" (Saint Nilus). We play theater when we fight for justice and equality, when in fact we are the most unjust and greatest tyrants. We play theater when we present ourselves as caring for and sacrificing for others, while seeking to exploit every situation. We play theater when we appear unhappy, sad, despised, to create similar impressions and to distract others. We play theater everywhere and always. At home, in society, in the Church.

We have learned to use different masks in our relationships with our fellow human beings, what a strange thing that we do it and noticeably these days? It has been observed that what concerns man or what man does all year round, manifests itself externally at a time when socially ... it is allowed! If we look at this energy through the state of hypocrisy, we will find that from the way in which man today destroys the person and uses various masks, he reveals his repressed experiences, manifests his external passions, as characterized by Holy Fathers.

The schizophrenia of hypocrisy

The hypocrite can be said with certainty to be a schizophrenic type. He believes one thing and does another. He is one way and appears another way. He thus reveals his divided and alienated personality, since he manifests with his life the split between existence and appearance, of being and becoming. The hypocrite constantly seeks to show what he is not and this makes him anxious, nervous and neurotic, with a sick way of speaking. He is tortured internally. Sooner or later this schizophrenic condition is realized and this discovery increases the problem.

Many claim that schizophrenia is a sign of all modern culture. Indeed, this is absolutely true, since the modern way of life is eminently hypocritical. It has transformed man from a person (being that exists "as life beyond space and time") into a mask, into an individual, into an inner world being.

We must become simple people. Avoid sophistication. To appear as we are. The apostle Peter commands: "Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind" (1 Pet. 2:1). Hypocrisy is a product of pride. Simplicity is the product of humility. When one seeks the purification of the soul from the passions, then one is unified. He eliminates all masks and becomes a person. And the person values the existence of man. Let the period of Great Lent help us to cultivate the inner man.

Source: From the book Όσοι Πιστοί. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.